Italy’s new government has decided to halve its procurement F-35 fighters, from 90 to 45, but will stretch out its implementation to limit any losses of related work for its aerospace industry, the Rome daily La Repubblica reported April 22.
According to the report, the 45 remaining aircraft would be slightly less than the 131 that Italy initially planned; a previous government had already cut 41 aircraft from its planned order in 2012.
In an April 18 decree, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that savings from the F-35 program would contribute to a 10-billion euro tax cut, and that the program would be “remodulate.” This year, the only change to the program is a reduction of 153 million euros, the decree stated.
According to La Repubblica, Renzi will not change the six-aircraft order planned for 2014, but will reduce the number of aircraft ordered by 2019 from 40 to 29. This will allow savings of over 2 billion euros, which the government finds irresistible.
To date, Italy has only ordered six aircraft, and Renzi plans to reduce the next order from 8 to 5 aircraft. Despite the air force’s strong backing for the F-35, the fact is that Italian defense plans have no requirement for a stealthy strike fighter, and this will be explicitly stated, La Repubblica reports, in the new defense white paper whose publication, originally expected by year-end, will now be brought forward to the summer.
Renzi and Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti plan to formally inform the United States of the change in plans during this year, and will seek to avoid any cuts in production orders for the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Cameri, in Northern Italy, it added.